Inspiration, anyone?

Posted: September 24, 2012 in Discussions, On Writing

As a writer, one of the most important things you can have is inspiration. But where does it come from? Some days it’s nearly instantaneous, like a light coming on suddenly. Other times it takes work, and ideas need to be mused, rolled around, and contemplated before forming a story.

For me, inspiration does not come in one form, or from one particular thing or place. Inspiration is all around me. I draw it from the tree branches outside my window, skeleton-like and swaying in the wind. I draw it from watching my dog laying on her side, dreaming she’s chasing something. Or from a movie I watch, or a book I read, or a building I see, or a person I meet. Sometimes all it takes is a few simple words, used one way or another.

Some of my best ideas, don’t even strike me as ideas for stories at first. They begin as a thought, or notion, generally something from my wild imagination, or influenced by something I’ve seen or heard or said or experienced.

But what about when it’s not there? What happens when you search for the elusive inspiration, only to find it has slipped through your fingers? Here’s something that helps me develop ideas.

Have in mind something, anything that relates to the type of story you want to write. I’m going to choose a dead tree, it fits me well. I write down the subject, and associate other words with it. It doesn’t matter how many, if they’re just words or complete thoughts, or how it fits with the subject. The point here is just to write. Get everything that comes to mind down on paper.

Dead Tree- forest, hollow, broken branches, animals living inside, windy, rain, fall, leaves on the ground, dirt, roots, tree fort, shoe tree, maple, pine, bark, seeds/pine cones, woods, scratching at window, twigs, hole near roots, bird nests in branches, apple blossoms, fruit bearing, nut bearing, twisted and gnarled branches, sap, cut into burning wood, dead tree in cemetery, tire swing hanging from tree, hunting stand in tree, massive tree downtown in a small city-pride and joy of town- tree dies and strange things happen in town-people die-water turns to waste-tourists quit coming-town dies as well, extremely tall tree, broken-fallen dead tree, etc.

Do you see how word association can bring to light great ideas? I like the small town with the tree as the pride and joy idea, as well as the hole near the roots (I was thinking maybe the hole led to an alternate reality or another world and maybe someone falls in or a child goes in after a pet). I think I will use both of these ideas too. They feel good to me. Try it yourself. Come up with a single subject or word and use word relation to draw out your imagination. You may find yourself surprised with the results.

If word association isn’t enough to bring to light that perfect idea, then think on it. Write down whatever you have already for ideas, and mull them over when you have free time. Sometimes it takes a little while to develop. I like to sleep on an idea before I write with or about it, however there are other times when inspiration strikes like lightning, and I NEED to write down what I’m thinking NOW, or I’ll lose it. Those are the times I love. There’s a certain sense of urgency, like the best story ever hangs in the balance and if I can get enough down I’ll have that perfect story.

It’s funny how inspiration seems to abandon you when you need it most, and yet it’s there to reach for when you want it.

Tell me, what inspires you?


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